A special blessing

MARSHALL – Despite being 78 years old, in poor health – he had a triple bypass and a valve replacement in 2010 – and losing four family members to cancer in the last four years, Albert Dalle of Tracy decided to venture to Italy in February.

Wanting to see a different part of the world, Dalle signed up for a 10-day trip to Italy.

“I went with a group of 58 people that were taking this tour,” he said. “It was led by a woman named Elizabeth who was from England.”

The Rev. John Vakulskas, Jr. of St. Andrew Church from Sibley, Iowa, organized the tour.

“We went from one end of Italy to the other,” Dalle said. “We saw Venice, Rome, and everywhere in between. We saw many old ruins, the coliseum, Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s painting, nine different old churches, and much more. We saw lots of vineyards and saw the Pope’s private flower garden.”

They not only saw the Pope’s private flower garden, they saw the pope himself.

“There were many people who stepped forward to wheel Albert around including me but most of all a lady by the name of Melody who you see in the picture with Pope Francis,” The Rev. John Vakulskas wrote in a recent e-mail to Dalle’s stepson, Mike Clark of Tracy. “Pope Francis spent a few minutes visiting with Albert, reminding Albert that he was in the prayers of the Holy Father.”

Dalle said the experience was “amazing. How many people get blessed by a pope? Father John was even amazed and so was everyone else on the trip. They were all calling me ‘St. Albert ‘ afterward.”

“Albert is a very special man, and he deserves to have some happiness in his (not so) golden years,” said Clark in an e-mail. “He lost two wives and two children to cancer in the past four years. He has faced more than his share of heartache, and having the Pope bless him personally gave him something to share with others that brings a smile to his face. He’s been busy giving away pictures to family and friends and it gives him happiness to be able to do that. Albert is a very devout Catholic, and being blessed by the Pope is something he is very humbled by and very proud of.”

Dalle was married to Irene Bakker, who died of pancreatic cancer last May. He was also married for 50 years to Helen Dalle, who died of cancer in 2009.

Clark is grateful to Vakulskas and others in the group for taking care of his step-father.

“He did help out Albert and without his help and the help of others who took the same trip, Albert would not have been able to do it,” said Clark.